Whether pragmatic, heartfelt or a compound of the two, Abe’s ‘olive branch’ is welcome

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shinzo abeA few weeks ago the FT’s Jonathan Soble reported from Tokyo that  Japan’s incoming prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is taking steps to improve Tokyo’s relations with Seoul, naming a special envoy to South Korea and suggesting he would set aside an election promise to promote Japan’s claim to a group of disputed islands:

“Mr Abe, whose conservative Liberal Democratic party won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, said he hoped to use impending changes in government in both countries as an opportunity to improve ties, which have deteriorated amid disputes over territory and wartime history.

“He told reporters he would appoint Fukushiro Nukaga, a former finance minister and the leader of a Japan-Korea legislators’ association, as envoy to the government of Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s president-elect.

“We have great hopes for the first female president in South Korea and send Mr Nukaga with the aim of improving and developing relations.”

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